A Time for Self-Examination

In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 3:3-6)

One of the most important ways we engage with God’s Word in our times of private worship is self-examination. As we meditate on the passage before us that day, we examine ourselves in light of it. If, as Paul says, “All Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16), then we would expect every passage to rebuke and correct us. In rebuking us, every passage exposes our sin; in correcting us, every passage shows us the way of godliness instead. One of the most important questions we ask of every text, then, is, “As I examine myself in light of this passage, what sinful behaviors, thoughts, feelings, or idols do I need to confess and repent of?”

Currently, in my times of private worship, I am meditating on Ephesians. I spent time in prayerful reflection on the above passage this week, but struggled to understand how this passage might be rebuking and correcting me. At first, I focused on verses 4-5, and questioned my engagement with God’s Word. God has graciously disclosed himself to us through his Word, which the apostles and prophets have recorded for us. Have I done enough to understand his Word? Do I really spend enough time and energy digging into his gracious revelation?

I lived with these questions for a few moments, but came to the conclusion that I really do. I have dedicated my life to understanding and proclaiming God’s Word. And so, without wanting to puff myself up for being much in his Word, I also didn’t want to let myself off the hook by settling for confession of general sin that doesn’t really touch my life. I had to press on.

In turning to the last verse, I found more fruitful ground for self-examination. The arresting power of verse 6 is Paul’s unwieldy repetition of “together.” Jews and Gentiles are heirs together, household members together, and promise sharers together. Coming out of his lengthy treatment of church unity in the previous chapter (2:14-22), the point is clear: God loves when we display gospel unity despite our surface differences.

And so I asked myself: Do I love—and work for—unity in the church as much as God would have me? I don’t think I can answer in the affirmative. While the deepest divisions are no longer religious (Jews versus Gentiles) but racial (white versus black), the need forand power ofchurch unity remains as great as ever. Have I listened attentively to those who feel marginalized? Do I lament the segregation on display at 10:30a on Sunday mornings across the nation—and at my church? Have I taken any steps to reach across the divide to pursue healing and reconciliation? Do I pray earnestly for that healing and reconciliation? Have I prioritized cultural or political “victories” over the advance of kingdom values? Have I labored to make my church a welcome place for persons from every people, tribe, and nation?

Perhaps these, and other questions like them, will spur your own self-examination. I would love to hear how God teaches, rebukes, corrects, and trains you, so that we can grow together.

Because God loves when we’re together.

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